While the modern history of slavery is built on racial discrimination and superiority complex, there are some unpopular truths that many have forgone to acknowledge. While the slave tradition was certainly fertilized by the White people, there were numerous free Blacks who involved themselves in buying and selling slaves in America.
The evidences suggest that Blacks, or African-Americans as they are called now, were involved in slave trade, not just as victims but also as perpetrators, from at least 17th century. Throughout the American civil war, there were myriad Black masters who owned slaves. Historians have been in unceasing arguments over the motivations of these masters to trade their own people. Some claim that the free Blacks bought slaves in order to protect them from the atrocities they would otherwise suffer under their White masters. The opposing argument is that they were motivated by the same things as the Whites: exploitation.
Interestingly, there is an element of truth in both arguments. There were some Black masters who bought slaves with philanthropic intentions while there were others who were exactly like their White counterparts. All of the 13 American states had free Blacks who owned slaves, though very few official records exist about them. One of the earliest records is about the couple Anthony Johnson and Mary Johnson of Virginia, who approached court in 1654 to obtain the service of their indentured Black servant John Castor. One particular name that was notorious among the slave owners is of Nat Butler, a farmer from Maryland who made slave trade a regular affair. The slave ownership reached its peak among the Blacks around 1830s. Most of them owned one or two slaves, most likely a family member to protect them from outside humiliation. There were a number of people who owned numerous slaves, like Antoine Dubuclet, William Ellison, John Carruthers Stanly, Justus Angel and Andrew Durnford who all had more than 50 slaves.
During the civil war, a group of Black slave owners in New Orleans even pled their allegiance to the Confederacy and formed their own private army to defend it. This militia had 440 men initially and was termed as Native Guards of Louisiana by the state governor. At its peak, it had some 1,000 guards. When Louisiana fell to the Union army, some of these guards changed sides and formed a new militia to fight for the Union. However, as the civil war progressed, the number of Black slave owners saw a decline and only a small fraction of the total slave owners were Blacks.
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